For the law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Hebrews 10:1 NASB
Only/and – At least they had the decency to put the words in italics. The translators have added a few words here, namely, “only” and “and.” I suppose they thought it best in order to help their English readers continue to believe that the Law no longer applies. After all, the Law is only a shadow, right? But now you realize that these words are not in the Greek text (it really makes no difference that that ESV adds “but” instead of “only”). The author of Hebrews does not contrast something that isn’t real (a shadow) with something that is (the good things to come). He merely points out that a shadow, which is quite real, isn’t the full representation of the object that casts the shadow. If you thought shadows were not real, try standing in the Arizona sun rather than looking for shade. The law is real; it just isn’t the fullest representation of what causes it to be.
What is the full representation that produces the real shadow of the Law? Ah, the completed restoration of fellowship with God, the place and time where all serve Him from the heart without need of instruction, the presence of the final expression of the Kingdom. In the meanwhile, shadows will have to do. Shadows might not be quite as effective as indoor air conditioning, but they are certainly useful when you need to get out of the heat. And until you go indoors, shadows are particularly important.
So the Author of Hebrews points out that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin,” but that doesn’t mean they have no place at all. They represent a greater reality, the final removal of the guilt of sin and its consequences in the full scope of Yeshua’s sacrifice, death and resurrection. When you stand in the shade, you find temporary relief but you still long to get into air-conditioned comfort.
Yeshua comes to complete the full process of salvation, a process that addressed both our defilement (guilt) and the resulting punishment (death). But even that isn’t the end of the story. Yeshua’s death and resurrection are the first fruits of the Kingdom, not the final chapter. His death and resurrection guarantee that God’s promise to restore His chosen is a reality. The resurrection proves that death isn’t the end. The resurrection points us toward a time when God will once again rule over all creation as the one and only acknowledged Lord of life. Because He died and rose again, we have an eternal hope.
But in the meanwhile, shade is a wonderful thing. Instructions about living that please our Lord and Master are essential, useful and freeing. “Only” a shadow? Tell that to the man who is dying of thirst in the desert. Oh yes, and the word “shadow” (skia) is first in the Greek sentence, the position of emphasis, not the place of casual dismissal.
Topical Index: only, shadow, skio, law, Hebrew 10:1
CORRECTION: Yesterday in my announcement about Israel 2014, I said we were going to Petros. Of course, I meant to type PETRA. Here’s the link if you are coming along.